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Voices, Spring-Summer 2014:
Follow the links on the Table of Contents to see excerpts of articles and read columns.
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Volume 40

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Rafael Hernández and the Puerto Rican Legacy of the 369th Regiment’s Harlem Hellfighters
by Elena Martínez

14 Hermanos y Amigos de Guatemala:
Folklore as Strategy for Cultural Survival

by Tom van Buren

19 A Song for Pete Seeger
by Joe Stead

20 America’s Last True Folk Hero
by Michael D’Antuono

22 Irv and Fran Shapiro Folk Music Library
by Maureen Dye

26 The Seven Trees and Ramapough Ethnicity
by Gary Van Valen

32 Dead Man’s Liver”—A Jump Tale
Collected, retold, and arranged for performance by Tim Jennings

44 Steppers With Class
by Zoe van Buren

Departments and Columns

13 Good Spirits: Legend Quests to Lily Dale
by Libby Tucker

24 Downstate: ThePOEMobile Dreams of Peace
by Steve Zeitlin

38 ALN8BAL8MO– A Native Voice: A Name to Remember
by Joseph Bruchac

40 Upstate: The View at the Top of the State
by Varick A. Chittenden

42 Voices in New York: Abdoulaye “Djoss” Diabaté— The Seed of Mandé Tradition Germinates in the New World
by Sylvain Leroux

31 NYFS News and Notes

Deer Mask Dancer
Cover: Deer mask dancer in performance by Hermanos y Amigos de Guatemala (HAGUA) at ArtsWestchester on May 1, 2010. See Tom van Buren’s article, “Hermanos y Amigos de Guatemala: Folklore as Strategy for Cultural Survival.”

Ellen McHale
From the Spring-Summer 2014 issue of Voices:

The Public Programs Section of the American Folklore Society (AFS) recently launched an “Advocacy Tool Kit,” designed to assist folklorists and their colleagues to better advocate for themselves and the field of folklore and folk culture. The development of this advocacy plan, presented at the 2014 AFS Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was the Public Programs Section’s response to a perceived lack of readiness by folklorists to move into action when public folklore programs became threatened by external policies and funding cuts. While noting that folklorists frequently serve as advocates for the cultures, people, and communities with whom they work, folklorists’ efforts at influencing policymakers and the public as to the value of folk culture, traditional arts, and cultural conservation have sometimes been less successful.

In New York State, advocacy has been an important part of public folklore scholarship. New York Folklore Society founder and historian, Louis C. Jones, who became head of the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA) in 1946 and, at the same time, progenitor of NYFS, did much to further folklore scholarship in New York. Under Jones’ direction, the folk art collection at the Fenimore House Museum in Cooperstown had its inception, and by 1948, the “Seminars on American Culture” became part of programming at NYSHA, presenting all aspects of folk culture and NY history to attentive audiences. Jones advocated strongly for the inception of the Cooperstown Graduate Programs in the early 1960s, and when it became a graduate program of the State University of New York at Oneonta, this program supported two academic tracks, one of which was the study of American Folk Culture. This important program advanced scholarly study of folklore, serving as the training ground for many distinguished folklorists.

Certainly, folklorists have frequently championed support for folk arts in New York. The successful formation of the Folk Arts Program of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) resulted from a groundswell of citizen support in the early 1980s. Continued advocacy for Folk Arts as part of NYSCA is necessary, and advocacy is ongoing to continue to emphasize the importance of the arts for the cultural life of the state. Similarly, ongoing advocacy is needed for support for the “Endowments”—the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities—especially during times of particularly drastic federal fiscal belt-tightening. Folklorists and other champions of traditional culture continue to highlight the particularities of community expressions and folk culture within the many diverse communities in New York, finding allies wherever they can be found. Consummate activist Archie Green summed it up: “In using plain speech to communicate with others inside and outside our professions, we undergird analysis, advance action, and step into coalitions.” (1) As we look to the future and ever-changing political landscapes, folk culture will be best served by multiple players, trumpeting an understanding of the importance of New York’s cultural diversity and the importance of traditional culture to the health and well being of all New Yorkers.

Ellen McHale, PhD
Executive Director
New York Folklore Society

(1) Hufford, Mary, ed. 1994. Conserving Culture: A New Discourse on Heritage. Published for the American Folklore Society. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Todd DeGarmo
From the Spring-Summer 2014 issue of Voices:

“Sap’s Running!” is a welcomed greeting in the early spring of upstate New York.

It usually happens around March, when the sun is a bit higher in the sky and is shining just that much longer each day.

If there’s snowpack (and there usually is), then a bit of melt has begun. On weekend walks around the rural hills of my home, you can see and hear the movement of the melt, darkening the snow, trickling into the depressions of the land, and moving on to the streams.

The watery sap of the sugar maple also begins to move out of the roots and up into the branches and leaves of the trees. It’s during these first few weeks of spring, with sunny days and cold, below-freezing nights that the gathering and boiling can begin.

All maple syrup producers rely on this slight, but noticeable turn away from the dark and cold days of winter. Large and small operators are found throughout the northern forests of the Northeast, wherever the sugar maple thrives. The rivalry between New York and Vermont producers is keen, though as a border dweller, I really don’t notice a taste difference. Biggest overall production is actually found further north in Canada, with New York and Vermont coming in second and third, respectively.

Native Americans have long collected sap and boiled it for syrup, sharing the tradition with the French of Canada and the English of New England. Someone back in time was pretty smart, or incredibly desperate, at the end of winter to boil 32–40 gallons of water for every gallon of maple syrup. The Abenaki say that this sweet treat once dripped from the trees, available any time of the year with no work required. But people got lazy and unappreciative of this free gift, so the Creator diluted the syrup to a watery sap, making the people work for this sweet staple.

Indeed. These days its takes time and energy to produce this gift of nature. Wood fires are often used to boil down the sap, and it takes a lot of wood. A cord of firewood will be burned for every 25 gallons of pure maple syrup. That’s a stack of wood 8 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 4 feet high.

Mountains of firewood and the sugar shacks—with their telltale open cupola in the peak of the roof to let out the steam— are evidence of this work. Looking closely at the landscape, you find more evidence of sugaring. Covered galvanized buckets and horse-drawn sleds have mostly replaced bark containers or wooden buckets with carrying yokes. Very often, plastic tubing, shaded blue, crisscrosses from tree to tree down to a collection point—sometimes the sugar shack, sometimes barrels (of metal or blue plastic), or reused stainless steel milk house tanks. Maple trees along the road, decorated with repurposed plastic gallon milk jugs, might point to a small backyard setup.

Nonetheless, whatever the setup and equipment, sugaring is in the blood. Many local farm families, like the Campbells of Mapleland Farms, have been sugaring for at least four generations to add to the income of their dairy and potato businesses. Others are new to the tradition—“backyard producers”—like my younger brother who boils enough for a year’s supply of pure maple syrup, stored in quart canning jars for his family’s pancakes, to give away as special gifts, and to sweeten his morning coffee.

Eight gallons of syrup can be condensed into a pound of maple sugar. Once used as a homemade substitute for cane sugar, maple sugar and maple syrup have been mainstays of North Country cooking, found in local recipes for maple-glazed ham, maple Johnnycake, maple-sweetened baked beans, candied popcorn, dumplings in maple syrup, maple frosting, maple sugar pie, just to name a few.

One of my fondest memories from my first years as a folklorist in the Adirondacks was my visit to Athol’s Jack Wax Party, an annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. This event continues to attract a large following, starting off with a supper of homemade savory dishes, not unlike the church suppers that I experienced as a child. However, as good as the food is, everyone is there for dessert: pure maple syrup cooked on the industrial stove and ladled onto snow, apportioned into individual paper bowls. The quickly cooled, cooked syrup forms into a taffy-like dessert, called Jack Wax or Sugar on Snow. With a twirl of a fork you eat it as is, possibly with a sour pickle chaser to cut the sweet and allow you to eat more. The year I was there was a rare year when the organizers had to travel north to Indian Lake to bring back snow for the event.

Closer to home, I like to visit the Upper Hudson New York Maple Producers’ booth at the Washington County Fair in August, to indulge in another maple treat: cotton candy spun from pure maple sugar. Not to be missed. Trust me. The same folk celebrate, in season, with an annual Maple Weekend, inviting the public to an open house and self-guided tour in March, to visit and learn about this local product from a number of their neighbors who make it each year. Many visitors use the map to tour the countryside, visit the sugar shacks, see the trees being tapped, taste samples, maybe indulge in a pancake breakfast, and yes, buy a gallon or two of New York maple syrup.

These days, my kids are all in college or beyond. Yet they cannot understand anyone’s interest in “maple-like” substitute “pancake syrups,” featuring less than two percent real maple syrup—a mostly corn syrup product with added color and flavorings. For them, it has to be the real deal, or why bother?

My thought this spring is to send them some of Tim Dwyer’s maple syrup. Tim, a neighbor around the corner, boils maybe 200 gallons of syrup each year. It’s also a good excuse to bring a dish to his annual Shushan Sity Sap Shack potluck, featuring craft beer made from his syrup, and providing company during the long hours of boiling. I’ll also pick up some maple sugar. My daughter loves this treat and thinks it the perfect gift to bring to her German host family during a musical exchange this coming summer.

Todd DeGarmo
Voices Acquisitions Editor
Founding Director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library


Rafael and Victoria Hernandez

Beacon of Hope - portrait of Pete Seeger by Michael D'Antuono

Tim Jennings in performance

Steppers With Style practicing at Poughkeepsie Middle School

Spring–Summer 2014, Volume 40:1–2

Acquisitions Editor
   Todd DeGarmo
Copy Editor
   Patricia Mason
Administrative Manager
   Laurie Longfield
   Mary Beth Malmsheimer
   Eastwood Litho

Editorial Board: Varick Chittenden, Lydia Fish, Hanna Griff-Sleven, Nancy Groce, Lee Haring, Bruce Jackson, Christopher Mulé, Libby Tucker, Kay Turner, Dan Ward, Steve Zeitlin

Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore is published twice a year by the New York Folklore Society, Inc.

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Maple Sugar Moon

Long ago maple syrup
dripped, thick from the trees.
All year round, you just had
to break a twig and lie down
beneath the tree with open mouth.

But the people got lazy
and when Our Creator, Git-chee Man-ni-tou,
sent his helper, Man-a-bo-zho,
to visit, he found
their village deserted
and all the people asleep
under the maple trees.

So he poured much water
into all the maples
so that now the people
would have to wake up,
make fires and boil down
the sap to make syrup.
They would have to work hard,
for that maple sap would flow
just this one time of the year,
the time we now call
Maple Sugar Moon.

From Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons, by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London; illustrated by Thomas Locker. Philomel Books, New York, 1992.

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